Saturday, 14 October 2017

Not yet engaged with Google reviews? Here's what will happen...

Still - in 2017 - we meet businesses that have not engaged with Google reviews. Why?

For a variety of reasons, but three main ones which we will explore here, along with their consequences...

1.  Denial - 'We don't see the need to'

It took years for Google reviews to gain traction - and during that time some businesses were lulled into thinking they did not/would not matter. But now they do - and how.  

  • unhappy consumers write reviews - in rapidly growing numbers. Just look at these three businesses that had just six Google reviews between them two years ago...
  • competitors that do find a way to engage will succeed, at the expense of those businesses that do not...

  Three clients of ours that had less than a dozen Google reviews between them when they joined

Answer: Engage with reviews, on Google and on your own website - with HelpHound's advice and support

2.  Fear - 'We are afraid to ask our customers to write reviews'*

HelpHound - and professional review management - will help you overcome the fear - we promise!

Completely understandable. What business would willingly risk its reputation? How can a business know, or at least be as confident as possible, that its customers will not write inaccurate or misleading reviews?

*there is a subset here: businesses that genuinely don't provide a good service or value for money - the kind we see every week on BBC's Watchdog - and thank goodness for Google reviews in their case. Three years ago they would have got away with it, now there's a good likelihood that a significant number of their customers will find their way to Google and write a review there. The rule for consumers in the second decade of the 21st century? Don't use a business that has no reviews on Google - and be wary of businesses that promote their reputations on independent reviews sites instead.

  • unhappy customers will write reviews - in rapidly growing numbers. See the examples under 'We don't need to' above.
  • competitors that do engage will succeed, by having significant numbers of great reviews, in absolute terms and relative to their competitors - reviews win business
  • your business will stand out - but not in a good way (especially when Google begins to rank business by review score in search)

Answer: overcome the fear - engage, with HelpHound

3.  Reviews sites - 'We reckon we have it covered already' 

 The web has evolved so fast - look at all these review sites (and they are only the tip of the iceberg) - all supplanted in recent years by Google

Businesses that have committed to independent reviews sites over the last few years suddenly realise they have the wrong solution - Google is all.

  • consumers won't see your reviews, relatively speaking - just compare the visibility of Google reviews and reviews from any independent site, from the world's biggest like Yelp and TripAdvisor to the relative minnows like TrustPilot and Feefo - and credibility? - there's no contest
  • consumers will question why you have reviews on an independent site (if they see them) - why wouldn't you have them on Google?
Answer: get on board with a solution that is credible and future-proof: HelpHound - oh, and if an independent reviews site pitches for your business ask them the following questions...
  • will my reviews show under my listing in organic search?
  • will my reviews show in 'Reviews from the web'
  • do you have a CMA compliant* system that minimises the chances that an inaccurate or misleading review will be posted?
  • do I own my own reviews?
  • can a customer post a review of my business at a time of their choosing?
  • why should I choose to get my customers' reviews to your site and not Google?
 *it continues to amaze us that there remain reviews sites out there in the marketplace whose systems fly in the face of the Competition & Markets Authority's rules. If are unfamiliar with these we recommend you spend ten minutes reading this article - compliance is the individual business's responsibility and has the force of law.

Further reading:


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Doctors - what happens if you ignore Google reviews?

This happens:


It is simple really, and its all down to a combination of human motivation and how we interact with the web. People are just more motivated to write negative reviews, often in the heat of the moment, and often putting the blame on the wrong agency.

The two reactions to this behaviour.... 

1.  Logical: these are just 17 opinions out of many thousands, of course some people are going to be unhappy/disappointed but this should not colour a prospective - or existing  - patient's view of the surgery.

 Reviews like this do get read - and do influence people - witness the eight 'thumbs up'. The fact that the review has not been responded to by the surgery serves to further endorse the patients' opinion

2.  Emotional: "How can I possibly entrust my health and welfare to a surgery that scores so low (and/or has so many negative reviews)?"

The reality

Everyone reads reviews nowadays, and their reaction is likely to be a combination of both. 

No-one has to actively search for Google reviews, they are displayed in every search. In addition, many more reviews are being written - sixteen of the seventeen reviews of the surgery above have been written in the last two years and fourteen of those in the last twelve months alone. That pattern is not going to reverse itself any time soon.

The solution

Surgeries must engage - with Google. That does not mean abandoning any current patient feedback mechanisms, far from it, but it does mean incorporating modern professional review management into their interaction with patients.

Otherwise: dissatisfied patients will continue to post to Google, just in increasing numbers (as more and more people find they are able to write a Google review).

Consult HelpHound

Then send an email or text to the patient asking them for a review to be independently verified and moderated by HelpHound, potentially misleading or inaccurate reviews to the surgery so they can engage with the patient pre-publication, reviews displayed on the surgery's own website and then invited to Google.

We are here to provide you with professional advice, and to design a review management strategy that dovetails with the way you operate your particular surgery, not shoehorn you into some 'off the peg' reviews solution.

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you would like more information just email

Monday, 9 October 2017

The 'fear factor'

When a massive business like this has so few reviews on Google we reckon we are right suspect there is only one thing preventing them engaging: fear (why else would they sacrifice results like these?)

It is the reason we are most given when we meet businesses that have yet to engage with reviews - "we are afraid". Sometimes it is voiced exactly like that - and with very good reason. Before we show you the solution let us look a little deeper in that 'fear'.

Reviews today

Once a review is written - on Google or on Facebook (and on any other platform including the compliant* independent sites) it is, to all intents and purposes, there for life, unless it contravenes their T&Cs, which reviews seldom do.

*surprisingly, there are non-compliant solutions being marketed to businesses in the UK at the moment

Two very distinct types of review

These two screenshots tell a very important story: they are of review totals for the same business - the only difference is that the reviews on the left - all 12,000-odd of them (in the last year alone) - are for their online retailer - on an independent site - and the ones on the right are of their London store - on Google (over the last four years). What do they tell us? They say that the business is keen to invite reviews of its products but that it is extremely wary of inviting reviews of its face-to-face service (in fact, we doubt it does at all)

There are product reviews and service reviews - and the difference is fundamental, so let's deal with them individually.
  • Product reviews - clothing, household goods, technology and so on tend to be of the 'I loved it' (5 stars) or 'I hated it' (1 star) with most people falling into the first category (after all, if you buy a pair of shoes there's a good chance you will be thrilled when you take them out of the box)

  • Service reviews - the professions (accountancy, law, medical, financial services, education, estate agency) where there is a significant degree of human interaction, often over a protracted period of time. The reviews is being written of a relationship - and often a complex one.
It is this second category that provokes the most fear. And rightly so: a review that says "I did not like the shoes" does little harm. A review that says "they completely messed up my tax return and then ignored all my emails and phone calls" has the capacity - and, in some cases, rightly so - to do lasting harm to a business.

So it is service businesses that fear reviews - and that is the reason, above all others, that service businesses have avoided engaging with reviews.

Managing the 'fear factor' - the solution...

The first thing to say is that there is no legally compliant solution that allows businesses to deflect legitimate negative reviews. There are solutions being sold to businesses that have that effect, but we are guessing that if you have read this far you are not in the market for one of those.

But there is a solution that allows businesses and consumers to identify and correct misleading and/or inaccurate reviews before they are publicly published, and that is where HelpHound comes in.

HelpHound Resolution™ 

There is a full description here, but in a nutshell our Resolution system works in four simple steps as follows:
  1.  All reviews are moderated - read - by a human moderator (no software yet devised, as Google and Facebook are learning to their cost, has yet replaced human intervention)
  2. Those that contain no issues are published to the business's own website and the reviewer is asked to copy their review to Google
  3. Those that appear to be inaccurate or potentially misleading are forwarded to the business for comment (in private)
  4. All the while the reviewer is aware that they have a right to publish a review - either their original or a modified version
So - in plain English - if the reviewer has got the wrong end of the stick they are given the opportunity to correct their review before it is published. If, on the other hand, your business has genuinely made a mess of things, then the reviewer is allowed - at any time during the process - to publish their review. And the business is allowed to respond, publicly.

Let us look at an obvious example, first for a business that is not a HelpHound client and then for one that is: 

  • a tenant has an issue with the agent's viewing procedure, they write a 1* review of the estate agent on Google. The agent responds - again, on Google - explaining that the issue was about staff security. The agent's score on Google is impacted by the 1* review - Google do not invite the reviewer to post a fresh review or modify the score they have allocated the business
  • a tenant has an issue with the agent's viewing procedure, they write a 1* review of the estate agent through HelpHound. Our moderator forwards the review to the estate agent (the reviewer is informed simultaneously) and the estate agent responds - privately - explaining the situation to the tenant. No erroneous 1* review on Google, no erroneous 1* review on the business's site. Job done.
Here is the actual review and the agent's - private - response:

From this you will gather that HelpHound is neither on the side of the business nor the consumer - we are on the side of accuracy. Inaccurate reviews - and scores (increasingly used as an 'at a glance' benchmark for consumers) benefit no-one. Lack of reviews because the business is afraid to engage benefit no-one either.

Two years ago this business had two reviews on Google...

 And none on its own website...

So it was missing out on the power of reviews to drive business - not any more.

If you run a service business, you should seriously consider using HelpHound. You will be able to actively engage with reviews without fear.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Red Carnation story - and what every business can learn from it

Back in the day when reviews first came about most businesses treated them as a nuisance, but not Red Carnation Hotels. So what did they do differently and what has been the outcome of their strategy?

The first thing: they faced facts. Having acknowledged that there was no way they could take on the giants of the hospitality industry budget for budget in conventional marketing they saw an opportunity with reviews that few others grasped. And then they determined, right from the word 'go', that they would shine.

A great leveller

They realised that any good business, given the will, could thrive with reviews without massive expenditure, indeed without any direct expenditure at all. They had stumbled upon a marketing tool that did not put them at a disadvantage to the big groups and turned it into a positive advantage in their battle for the hotel dollar.

What did they do?

They set out to be the best reviewed hotel group on the web. Not just 'good' - not just great - the best. They made reviews their ally - not something to dread.

In practical terms...

Most hotels are luck (or unlucky!) if one in a thousand of their guests write a review. Red Carnation realised that in the remaining nine hundred and ninety-nine there was a vast resource waiting to be tapped. And so they set about tapping it. 

They motivated all their staff to focus on getting reviews to TripAdvisor* - from the front desk to housekeeping. They made sure staff made every effort to manage issues that might lead to a negative review before the guest departed the hotel. They maximised the potential for getting great reviews to TripAdvisor by refining every aspect of the process that would lead to getting that crucial review.

*and they moved with the times, when Google reviews became important they were ready

Numbers and scores

  The top three hotels in London? The Ritz, Claridges and the Connaught? Not according to TripAdvisor!

If you look at any Red Carnation property online, three things will rapidly become apparent...
  1.  They will rank amongst the very top hotels in their location
  2.  They will have more reviews than any of their competitors relative to the number of rooms in each of their properties
  3.  They will be charging top dollar for those rooms (occupancy is not an issue for Red Carnation - we're betting they could fill each room twice over in most of their locations for most of the year)

Be the best you can be

There may be better hotels for some people - hotels are a matter of taste after all - but no-one can gain-say that Red Carnation properties look amazing online.

The lesson for every business

Given that you do a good job for your customers - and that must be a given - the next step is to 'do a Red Carnation' with reviews. Make review management part of your core marketing strategy and embed it into every part of your business. 

And finally...

Three things we're betting you don't hear from Red Carnation staff...
  •  "I'm too busy to focus on reviews"
  •  "We don't have the resources to focus on reviews"
  •  "Reviews don't impact on our bottom line"

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

HelpHound - article index

Here is an index, with brief explanations, of some of the key articles we have published in the last five years...

First - 'must reads' for everyone in management... 

  • A Guide to review management in 2017 - all the options facing a business today
  • The Fear Factor - why so many businesses hesitate before engaging with reviews, and why there's no need to
  • Why not just do it yourself? - and what you will be missing out on if you do
  • The Future of reviews - see how we think the reviews landscape will change over the next few years
  • The Competition & Markets Authority Rules - most businesses and reviews sites are currently breaking them - and why there's no need to
  • Resolution™ - protecting business and consumer alike from inaccurate and/or misleading reviews. Fear is the single thing that prevents most businesses engaging with reviews; Resolution™ means that good businesses can relax in the knowledge that inviting reviews will not put their hard earned reputations at risk
  • How about the independent reviews sites? These numbers finally lay to rest the Google (and your own website) v. the independent sites argument 
  • Already engaging with reviews? - a checklist of 'wrong ways' to avoid and 'giveaways' that enable the regulators spot wrongdoing (and a business's competitors to make hay)
  • The 5 questions most asked about HelpHound - starting with 'How can we be sure we won't be risking our business's reputation?' and including 'What will it cost?' and 'Are there any guarantees [of success]?'

 Next - the 'salesy stuff'...

 Industry/profession related articles...

Under the bonnet - for those who like to understand what 'makes the car go'...

In summary...

As you can see, there is more to professional review management than might at first meet the eye. We suggest you speak to us so we can put it into the context of your business and your current experience with reviews.

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you would like more information just email

Monday, 25 September 2017

Rightmove: get reviews to Google and your own site

This today from the Rightmove 'Home Movers' survey:

'Where reviews were read, most (42%) were on Google, followed by agents’ own website (36%), Trustpilot (11%), allAgents (6%) and Feefo (2%).'

And what has HelpHound been saying all along? 

'Concentrate on getting reviews to your own website and to Google'

Thank you for confirming this advice, Rightmove: 78% (42% Google + 36% business's own site) plays 11%, 6% and 2%. 

That is how we generate results like these for our clients:

 This screenshot is taken from the new Google my Business email - sent monthly from this September - to all those businesses that have reviews on Google (and is published here with permission from Curchods). The numbers - plus 18% for calls and plus 27% for visits show the immediate one-off uplift for a single branch resulting from HelpHound implementation

It's common-sense really, but it is surprising just how many businesses have persisted - until now - with ploughing on the stony ground of independent sites.


Some readers will be off like a shot to Google at this point, but we suggest you pause to consider why well-respected businesses like Curchods use HelpHound.

Without independent review management your business will lack:
  • any mechanism to head off inaccurate or misleading reviews
  • star ratings, scores or 'Reviews from the web' in Google organic search - see below
  • ongoing advice on how to maximise the potential of reviews to drive your business forwards

And all for the price of a smartphone contract? Call us and well tell you everything you need to know to mobilise the power of review management for your business.

Further reading:

Here's the full article on PIE. In it you will note the following:

"A whopping 70% of potential vendors and landlords do not read online reviews."

So you might expect us to react with a justification for reviews. Far from it, because that statistic is simply a reflection of the fact that the overwhelming majority of estate agents are not showing their prospective fee-payers any reviews at all (or are subscribing to one of the 'invisible' reviews sites mentioned in the article, which amounts to the same thing). 

 Consumers are not going to reference reviews as an influencing factor if the businesses in question look like this:

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you need more information email

Monday, 18 September 2017

How HelpHound adds value to 'Do-it-yourself' review management

Any business can invite their customers to post a review to Google, and many do. Here we focus on the value HelpHound adds to that process...

1.  Independently verified reviews on your own site

Just as having reviews on Google increases click-through to your website, reviews on your own website act as a powerful call to action, turning browsers into potential customers. In this example the combination of both increased click-through by 27%.

You don't have to take our word for it; every month Google will send you a report like this, so you will be able to see the direct effect of adopting HelpHound (thank you to Curchods for allowing us to publish this copy of their Google My Business performance statistics).

With independently verified reviews you get the added bonus of stars, score and number of independently verified reviews attached to your organic listing in search and a click-through in the Google knowledge panel (see points 3 and 4 below).

2.  Minimising inaccurate, misleading and fake reviews

At HelpHound, every review goes through Resolution™ - our moderation system - and any that we think may be factually inaccurate or potentially misleading are first served to you so you can engage with the reviewer. This ensures, as far as is possible, that reviews shown are an accurate reflection of your business, benefiting you and your potential customers. 

3.  Showing your own reviews' score in search

The stars and the rating and make you stand out in search and gives consumers an instant impression of your business - proven to increase both calls and click-throughs (website visits increased by 27% for one client - read the story here).  

4.  Showing 'Reviews from the web' in your Google knowledge panel

Consumers have been trained by Google to use the knowledge panel as an instant reference for your business. Reviews are shown there in no less than three separate locations: Google reviews at the top, 'Reviews from the web' - a link to the reviews on your own website - in the middle - and 'rich snippets' - the quotes from your reviews that Google takes to create an impression for its users, at the bottom.

5.  Advice on responding to reviews

Responding to reviews is an important aspect of modern CRM. But so few businesses do so - when asked they often say 'we don't have time' or 'we don't have the confidence' and, more often than you might think, 'we don't know how'. HelpHound supports all our clients with advice, whether that be strategic or specific, right down to the wording of individual responses.

6.  Advice on appealing inaccurate or misleading reviews 

One of the most frequently received calls here at HelpHound is from businesses who have received a review - on Google or any other reviews platform - that they consider to be either:
  • fake - written maliciously, perhaps by a competitor or a disgruntled employee, or just someone with an axe to grind
  • inaccurate or misleading - it does not accord with their version of events, or makes simple factual errors that might mislead future consumers to the detriment of both those consumers and the business
At HelpHound we reckon we have more experience than any other adviser in this area. We will recommend whatever course of action we believe to be the most effective and prepare a written appeal to the review site in question - including Google.

7.  Longevity

Solutions change over time - you only have to look at the profusion of reviews sites that have positioned themselves as the solution for businesses, only to fade away months or years later. Most of your will know of Yelp - the biggest review site on the planet - they invested massively in the UK and signed up thousands of businesses and then abruptly left last year.

Your business needs a solution that your can rely on for the years to come, and that means
  • owning your own reviews, not giving them to another business
  • adopting a solution that is flexible enough to accommodate changes - changes in the marketplace, changes at Google. Infinitely adaptable to act in your best interests. That's HelpHound.

8. Compliance

The Competitions & Markets Authority (CMA) has yet to fine a business in the UK for contravening its regulations, but mark our words, it is only a matter of time. Anyone who thinks the CMA is reluctant to show its teeth would do well to read this.

And most, if not all, current reviews solutions in the UK contravene one or more of the CMA's core regulations. Read this to see if you recognise any symptoms.

What use is a reviews solution if it results in a headline accusing a business of playing fast-and-loose with government regulations? You need professional advice on reviews and review management almost as much as you need professional legal and financial advice. We are here to provide it.

In summary

There - eight reasons. And we would humbly suggest that any one of them is worth our monthly fee on its own. DIY or HelpHound? Speak to Fiona or Karen and then make an appointment where we will answer any questions about your current strategy - or discuss ways ahead if you have yet to formulate one.

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you need more information email

AllAgents suspend listing of Purplebricks reviews - who next?

This appeared on PurpleBricks' page on allAgents today...

What has happened? Well, first let us say that we know no more than has been published on PIE. But from that, we gather that “allAgents received correspondence from Purplebricks’s legal representatives threatening legal action if we do not remove 71 negative reviews. allAgents has decided to action their request pending further investigation.”

Things have, it appears, quickly moved on to complete suspension

We make no comment on the merits or otherwise of either party's case, but we will be following this story with interest, not least because allAgents are by no means the only site that carries reviews - negative of otherwise - of Purplebricks and every other business on the planet. If Purplebricks can get a reviews site to take down its reviews which business and which reviews site is next?

Trustpilot - which is Purplebricks' review site of choice - itself released an 'open letter' that is quoted in full on Estate Agent Today

Our take...

Reviews are meant to help consumers make decisions, but there are often marked differences between reviews sites (above), and Google and those reviews sites...

Again, we make no comment as to the accuracy or veracity of the reviews that make up these three distinctly divergent scores, except to say that we don't know quite where they must leave the average consumer.

As regular readers will know, we at HelpHound have always had issues with independent reviews websites - it is very difficult indeed for an independent site to market a service that is seen as actively encouraging dissatisfied customers to post publicly visible reviews - and many have mechanisms that are designed to address this very issue. The trouble is that some of these mechanisms can be seen to give rise to potential differences when checked against the Competition & Markets Authority's regulations.

Our solution...

There is no need for a business to use an independent reviews site. Adopting proper professional review management gives a business a much more flexible solution - and enables the business to get reviews where they will do the most good (and there's no doubting they do good!) and that is currently on the business's own site and on Google.

Update 20 September...

An article in the Times today.

As of today, Trustpilot's entry for Purplebricks US looks like this...

With all but one review looking like this...

And - a simple click through to Nick Smith's Trustpilot profile shows this:

What is anyone to make of a review site where the business has to report the review to the review site it employs? Did anyone at Trustpilot have the slightest inkling that a reviewer with a email address may possibly not have sold a property in California. More to the point, did Trustpilot - do Trustpilot - know that Purplebricks only launched in the US last Friday

Purplebricks US site looks like this (currently)...

Now, we can only say what HelpHound's policy would be in this case, and that is that we will only allow our clients to show reviews that are directly attributable to the location in question. You open a new office in Cardiff - you better start getting review from clients in Cardiff, because we are not going to allow you to show reviews from your Bristol office! If a consumer sees a HelpHound verified review on a business's website that review will be of that business in that location...

Reviews of Winkworth in Kennington - nowhere else.

In conclusion...

We are sorry if the tone of this article is verging on the intemperate, but here at HelpHound we work very hard to ensure that we, in conjunction our clients, manage their reviews in such a way as consumers are able to rely on them: if a HelpHound client looks good it must be because they are good.

We understand that reviews sites are under considerable pressure - on the one hand from some businesses that think it is 'unfair' that people can 'write what they like' about them and want the review site to bend over backwards (and bend the rules - both the CMA's rules and the rules of natural justice) to help them - and on the other from Google; the canal companies were not thrilled when railways came along, but come they did. 

Google and professional review management are now the solution businesses need - with a sideways glance at Facebook too - and if that means that the independent reviews sites fall by the wayside, then so be it (there was a massive hint that this was happening when Yelp left the UK at the end of last year).

Latest (21 September): 

Property Industry Eye "allAgents mount criticism of 'miffed' Purplebricks"

A new notice on Purplebricks' listing on allAgents

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you need more information email

Friday, 15 September 2017

Winkworth's new website is shortlisted for the Negotiator Awards

Congratulations to our clients at Winkworth for being shortlisted for the Negotiator Awards 2017.

We love the way Winkworth and their web designers at Homeflow have taken our API and incorporated it into their striking new website, and we wish them all the best on 31st October.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Visits up 27% thanks to HelpHound!

Yesterday Google introduced Google My Business performance statistics. Sent to each business in an email they look like this...

Curchods went live with HelpHound this summer - this, for just one of their branches, was sent to us today by their marketing director (and shared with permission). Calls up 18% and website visits up a massive 27% - and the only difference? HelpHound (and for a month - August - where they would normally expect falls)

There is a strong message from Google here - following right on from last week's surge in searches for 'best' - and that is that looking great in reviews is vitally important if you are to maximise returns from search.

Look like this...

 ...with your own reviews, gathered with HelpHound, showing the star rating, score and number (top left) and with a direct link from 'Reviews from the web' to your website in the Google Knowledge Panel; then your Google reviews and rich snippets (bottom right), all working in concert to produce the uplift in calls and visits reported by Google in the top screenshot.

The knowledge panel (above) and organic search (below) are so important for businesses now - the days of embedding relevant key words into your site and hoping for the best are well behind us, and with the day when Google serves the 'best' businesses in search fast approaching, any business that does not take its review management seriously is bound to suffer...

 ...a glimpse into the future... photoshop! The 'best' business at the top of the google 3-pack and first in organic search

We think the message is now even clearer - that professional review management pays dividends - we hope, like Curchods, your business will see the benefits too. One thing is for sure: you will know within weeks of joining because Google will tell you!

And please note: While the business in this example is an estate agency  - and just one of twenty branches of that agency - the principle will apply to any business from accountancy to zoos.

Further reading:
  •  An index to the most relevant articles on this blog

Please feel free to comment on this article - link below - and subscribe - centre right - so you can be sure to receive every article as it is published. If you need more information email